Monday, November 19, 2012

Plateaus & Valleys & Thanksgiving

Today was an interesting day in Istanbul.  I was invited to go to a conference at Maltepe University with my co-worker Prags, the high school counselor Dave, and my principal Yann.  The conference had to do with street children of the world and the effective interventions that make a difference in their lives.  I will simplify what I learned into one sentence... Human beings who have been through life traumas are broken, the only way to fix them is through loving relationship.

I have an interest in the lives of these children.  They break my heart and they are everywhere in this world. Istanbul does a good job of keeping them out of sight for the most part.  There are still the gypsy children.  Like the ones pictured above.  It was a Sunday afternoon in late October and I was waiting for the bus when this group of kids wandered by.  There were three of them without shoes.  Remember it's October...and it's Taksim Square.   Anyway... this trio sauntered past and I just covertly snapped a photo of their feet.  Right after I took the picture, a beggar came by asking for money... I pointed to the children's bare feet and told him no.  He looked at me and understood immediately what I was saying.  Maybe they were related, who knows. I see kids working everytime I go to Taksim, selling water or flowers, or playing a plastic flute.  I once saw a young boy, it was mid day in August, he was sleeping on the concrete doorstep of a side alleyway.  Maybe he was 7 or 8.  Nearby there were some older men having tea.  I hate this with a passion.  One night there was a group of us drinking at "the local" (our neighborhood Cheers) and this little girl, (about 10 I would judge) came by the bar to sell roses... no one buys me roses anymore, and everyone at our table either declined or ignored her.  She smiled kindly at me, shyly, and sprinkled rose petals on my head.  That will stand out for me the rest of my life as a holy moment.  It was about 1 AM and she was working.  I saved some of the petals.

It's Thanksgiving time as I write this.  Thursday marks the day of traditional feasting and harvest thanksgiving to GOD who made all things.  I came home tonight and thought about my children and holidays past when we all gathered to eat and drink and laugh over card games and board games and inside family jokes.  I will miss that so very much this year.  I cried a bit thinking about it and how my family really no longer will circle around my house for the holidays.  It made me quite sad until I remembered this blog I had begun drafting a couple weeks back. 

While I have a passion for serving the lost and the poor of this world... I can also become lost in my own way... inside of my own pity party... feeling regret and sorrow over small things.   I thought about this blog topic - I had really been trying to get back into writing about the homeless kids, but just wasn't feeling inspired.  Until tonight... and you know what inspired me?  My own self pity.  No family around, living in a foreign land, no Thanksgiving holiday, and just for fun, the man I felt I had a bit of connection with and was looking forward to seeing at an event... well he stopped talking to me last week and was a no-show at a Sunday get together.  Yes, I've been feeling very sorry for myself.  Poor, poor me.

This young boy is about 15 years old.  He was working in Sultanahment, picking through the trash for recyclables.  That's what a lot of the gypsy folks do for work.  And they all do something.  You can see by the shirt that he is wearing that this is not easy or pleasant.  He will drag that bin until it is full when he will then take it to a truck somewhere, empty it, and get back to work filling it again.  I don't take pictures of their faces, though they do know how to smile for a camera.  I do not want to invade their pride or their sorrow.  For him, I think it was just another day.

So yeah, I feel sorry for myself because I won't get to eat a plateful of turkey this Thursday, and I dont' have a boyfriend to buy me roses, and I won't get to play apples to apples with my daughter and sons this holiday.  My bank account is empty thanks to some rummy renters, and I will probably eat kofte and have too much wine Thursday after work, and then I will go back in then next day to finish my week.  Poor poor me.

Two teenage girls who dig through the trash in Ortokoy to fill a bin that is taken to the recylcable truck.  Some people leave stuff on the side of the road in the bushes for them.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Relationships...Love in the time of Uncertainty

It's 6 PM on a Sunday night.  I've just watched back to back episodes of Sex and the City movies 1 & 2.  I steadfastly refused to watch this Hollywood syrup in the states, but here I am in Istanbul.... arguably one of the most romantic cities in the entire world and I am alone in my apartment on a weekend night, streaming two ridiculous HBO movies that only served to facilitate alternately... eye rolling, snotty weeping and unrealistic yearning.  Exactly what HBO had in mind I am sure.  But to tell you the truth, as hokey and unrealistic as this show was, there are some great pearls of relationship wisdom to be found in between the bits of fluff and Prada.  I found this blog on SATC while searching for photos to insert If you are happily married or in a lovely relationship that fulfills you entirely... read no further.

If however, you are single and wondering what happened to your life and your dreams and desires and why on earth you are still on this adventure alone... wade in on in.

I had a great day yesterday.  I woke up full of life, having shed the post vacation blues and was ready to take on the city once again.  After puttering around the apartment for hours, I finally dressed and left to hike in Yildiz Park.  I've written about Yildiz before... I liken it a bit to Central Park, maybe not as much to do, but still quite stunning and large.  I love to go there on Sunday afternoons. 

  A peaceful respite of green in the middle of a fast and busy city.  It was a sunny day, warm and comfortable. The park was beautiful.  Fall is slow coming here this year and while the leaves have turned and many lie fallow on the ground, there is not a chill in the air like I am used to this time of the season.  Yildiz sprawls out up and across a steep hill with small canyons and valleys and some side paths that lead to some scarier neglected areas where I saw squatters, and heard strange sounds.  It is quite a hike through this park.  Since it was Bayram (holdiay)... the place was packed with families, roaming teenagers, picnickers, wedding parties and ........ ugghhh - lovers aplenty. Not that I don't like lovers.  Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.
No.... I like lovers.  I would like to be counted in their numbers believe me, and I have been in the past.  But as time revolves... the merry-go-round of relationships seems to have refused to allow me boarding at this stage in the game.  It is therefore, difficult to wander about in a beautiful setting such as Yildiz and gaze at couples steeling away for a kiss or two or three... or a family strolling arm in arm... so happy together.

The novelty of living in this fantastic country and this unsurpassed city has worn just a bit.  Oh I am still in love with Istanbul, and now having seen more of Turkey... the country is even more so an object of my affection.... but  I cannot go to dinner with a country.  I cannot make breakfast or sip coffee or listen to music with the country.  The country will not walk with me down to the fish docks or watch Republic Day fireworks by my side.  I cannot cook an aromatic and seductive meal for the county.  I cannot call the country up on a Friday night and ask it to come over and listen to the rain with me throughout the night.  So what's a single person living the expat life in a foreign country to do when loneliness knocks at the door of the heart and there is no lover with whom to share the delightful experiences of day to day living?

It is quite tempting here to say... oh well, call a friend and that will fill the void.  It does sometimes you know.  We make fast friends as expats, because we need one another for precisely this reason.  People we never would have socialized with in our old lives... we suddenly become fast pals.  Tomorrow for example... I have plans to have a lovely dinner with 2 friends from South Africa.  We will have curry and rice, and drink a much better version of Baily's creme called Amarula.  Later after we have dined and chatted the three of us will go out dancing.  These people have made my life richer there is no doubt.  And they have staved the demons of loneliness.  But time always sends people out the door, and in the end....

There is always the option of making a fast and quick casual connection.  That opportunity has presented itself a few times here.  I have acquaintances who choose to go this route.  That is their business, and I do not fault them for their choice.  Actually I understand it implicitly. have one friend who keeps saying to me... "Oh Connie, you need a Turkish lover, you should just take a Turkish lover."  One sodden night when we went out drinking after a staff party, she sort of looped this conversation into my ear repeatedly.  Kind of like a subconscious suggestion.  I think she was trying to hypnotize me into a situation I know I cannot handle... emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.  I did meet a young, intelligent, gentle and handsome entrepreneur who happens to be Turkish.  I was on holiday away from Istanbul, and he was interested in me.  It was tempting but I just am no longer capable of those types of relationships.  Oddly enough... it was driving around with him late one night, when I happened to look over at his arm resting while he was driving.  It was something about that arm, the cool night air, the rhythm of the car... I realized I didn't want just one time with an arm... but many many times... looking over at someone whom I loved, driving me around or walking me through a park, or eating a meal I had made.  THAT was what I was looking for.  Charlotte I am NOT.  Darn it.

I  belong to an organization called InterNations.  You can see their badge on my blog page. InterNations sponsors a huge variety of events here in Istanbul (and in most major world cities) for the express purpose of helping people make connections.  You can join everything from clubbing/nightclub groups to sailing groups.  I have been to one of their events and met some new people.  I had a lovely conversation with a very interesting man.  I wanted him to ask for my number but he didn't.  I left early.  Not that I didn't want to stay... but at this point in my life... I just cannot afford quick and easy and temporary.  Maybe I'll see him again down the road.

"Why can't you just let go and have fun with someone for a night ????" many friends ask.  Or maybe "Why not???". So as I write that... I pause to really deeply think about the answer to that question.  Without elaborating on my relationship history too much... (that will be for my first novel and I will have to take some literary license even then to protect both the innocent and the guilty) I will relate a conversation I once had with my youngest son after my marriage ended ( I was married to the same man twice - I still love him deeply, but there has been so much flooding under the bridge, that neither of us can go back)

Me:  "Well I have been out on a couple of dates, but neither of them bore any promise".
Son:  "Mom, don't you think given your history with relationships that you maybe should just give it up at your age?"
Me:  " Silence"
Son: "I mean unless you are terribly lonely, why bother?"

 Yes indeed.  Why bother? I am not "terribly" lonely.  Though I am weary of  being alone...  So why on earth would I want to enter into yet another relationship?  What makes me think i should even attempt such a stratospherically prohibitive endeavor at this late stage in my life?  I guess because I have never really, truly, had an everlasting love (other than the one I have with GOD... which is untouchable and will never come to an end).  I would like before the end of my life, to find a one true love.  How do I know they exist?  I know because I grew up with two people who had such a love.  This couple... the quintessential fairy tale... they spoiled me for life.

They were the couple who adopted me, loved me, raised me, and flaunted their balanced and passionate love affair until my dad passed away suddenly at the untimely age of 69.  My mother did not re-marry. 

Ok.... I know what you are thinking.... you are, in your own mind and heart, coming up with all kinds of reasons not to believe in true love, and your arguments about even what I experienced through my exposure to these two people who I knew as "Dad & Mom". I understand.  I have heard, and even made, some of the same arguments with myself.  But I know that within my heart... there is a desire to connect deeply with another human soul who (in the words of the African's...) sees me and I see him.  Now that I am more than halfway through this blog... a week has passed.  This is a difficult and complicated thing to write about.  It's difficult to hope, in a world where everything has become relativistic, that I might meet someone, ONE someone who will share my passions, hopes, failures, fears, dreams, loves, bed, and life.  And I am not silly enough to think that it WILL happen.  It might,  it might not.  In the meantime... I think I will continue to hope. 

Love you.